NHL offseason grades: Central Division

National Hockey League / Getty

Divisions: Metropolitan | Central | Pacific | Atlantic

With the NHL offseason all but wrapped up, we're handing out grades for all 32 teams. The four-part series continues with an in-depth look at each club in the Central Division.

Some contract figures are reported. Most players on two-way deals have been omitted.

Arizona Coyotes

NHL Images / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Loui Eriksson F 1 year $6M
Andrew Ladd F 2 years $5.5M
Dmitrij Jaskin F 1 year $3.2M
Antoine Roussel F 1 year $3M
Jay Beagle F 1 year $3M
Ryan Dzingel F 1 year $1.1M
Anton Stralman D 1 year $5.5M
Shayne Gostisbehere D 2 years $4.5M
Conor Timmins D 2 years $850K
Carter Hutton G 1 year $750K
Josef Korenar G 1 year $750K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Derick Brassard F Signed with PHI
Michael Chaput F Signed with PIT
Michael Bunting F Signed with TOR
Conor Garland F Traded to VAN
Christian Dvorak F Traded to MON
Tyler Pitlick F Expansion draft
Oliver Ekman-Larsson D Traded to VAN
Jason Demers D Unsigned UFA
Alex Goligoski D Signed with MIN
Niklas Hjalmarsson D Retired
Antti Raanta G Signed with CAR
Adin Hill G Traded to SJS
Darcy Kuemper G Traded to COL

Re-signed

N/A

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Dylan Guenther F 9th overall (2021)
Liam Kirk C 7th round (2018)
Victor Soderstrom D 11th overall (2019)

The Coyotes had themselves an offseason for the ages, holding a fire sale and taking on bad contracts from teams all over the league.

Longtime captain Ekman-Larsson and the up-and-coming Garland were offloaded to Vancouver in exchange for a trio of veterans on expiring deals. Raanta and Kuemper are out of the picture after sharing the crease for the last several campaigns. The upcoming season will be miserable for an Arizona roster that will find it extremely difficult to compete on most nights.

This isn't all for nothing, though. The Coyotes stockpiled an absurd amount of draft picks over the last few months. They have three first-round selections in next year's deep draft, alongside a whopping five in the second round, and they'll surely be in the mix for the No. 1 pick. Plus, the club will be selling at this year's deadline to tack on more assets. The rebuild is on in Arizona.

Grade: B+

Chicago Blackhawks

Ben Jackson / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Tyler Johnson F 3 years $5M (trade with TBL)
Jujhar Khaira F 2 years $975K
Seth Jones D 8 years $9.5M (after trade with CBJ)
Caleb Jones D 1 year $850K (trade with EDM)
Jake McCabe D 4 years $4M
Marc-Andre Fleury G 1 year $7M (trade with VGK)

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Vinnie Hinostroza F Signed with BUF
Pius Suter F Signed with DET
Zack Smith F Retired
David Kampf F Signed with TOR
Josh Dickinson F Unsigned UFA
Brandon Pirri F Unsigned UFA
John Quenneville F Expansion draft
Adam Boqvist D Traded to CBJ
Brent Seabrook D Traded to TBL
Duncan Keith D Traded to EDM

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Adam Gaudette F 1 year $998K
Brandon Hagel F 3 years $1.5M
Alex Nylander F 1 year $874K
Connor Murphy D 4 years $4.4M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
 Lukas Reichel F 17th overall (2020)

Not many teams had a busier offseason than the Blackhawks.

The club scored a massive win by virtually acquiring both Fleury and Johnson for free. Fleury proved last campaign that he can still perform as one of the league's best goalies, which was a position of desperate need for Chicago. Meanwhile, Johnson's price tag may look slightly high, but he's still a more than capable middle-six center that played a key role on Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup squads.

The Blackhawks also bolstered their defense in a number of ways. They brought in Seth Jones to be the team's No. 1 blue-liner, as well as McCabe and Seth's brother, Caleb, to provide considerable depth. Trading away team legend Duncan Keith wasn't an easy decision, but it was necessary to improve the team.

If Toews returns this season, as expected, the Blackhawks will find themselves with a deep, talented lineup that could surprise many.

Grade: A-

Colorado Avalanche

Ethan Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Darren Helm F 1 year $1M
Mikhail Maltsev F 1 year $809K
Ryan Murray D 1 year $2M
Darcy Kuemper G 1 year $3.5M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Matt Calvert F Retired
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare F Signed with TBL
Joonas Donskoi F Expansion draft
Brandon Saad F Signed with STL
Carl Soderberg F Signed in Europe
Patrik Nemeth D Signed with NYR
Philipp Grubauer G Signed with SEA
Devan Dubnyk G Unsigned UFA

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Gabriel Landeskog F 8 years $7M
Tyson Jost F 2 years $2M
Cale Makar D 6 years $9M

Rookies who could crack lineup

Player Position Drafted
Shane Bowers F 28th overall (2017)
Alex Newhook F 16th overall (2019)

The Avalanche didn't do a whole lot this offseason, likely due to a looming Nathan MacKinnon extension that has to be signed within the next two years. They did lock up Makar and Landeskog on long-term, relatively team-friendly deals, which will bolster the club for the coming seasons.

However, Colorado lost a number of key contributors from last campaign, such as Saad, Grubauer, and Donskoi. The team acquired Kuemper - who's been great when he's been healthy - to take over in the crease, but he carries a big injury risk.

The Avalanche should still, once again, be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with all of their core stars returning. But those players will have to be on the top of their games.

Grade: C

Dallas Stars

Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Luke Glendening F 2 years $1.5M
Michael Raffl F 1 year $1.1M
Ryan Suter D 4 years $3.65M
Jani Hakanpaa D 3 years $1.5M
Braden Holtby G 1 year $2M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Andrew Cogliano F Signed with SJS
Jason Dickinson F Traded to VAN
Justin Dowling F Signed with VAN
Jamie Oleksiak D Expansion draft
Mark Pysyk D Signed with BUF
Sami Vatanen D Unsigned UFA
Stephen Johns D Retired
Taylor Fedun D Signed with PIT

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Blake Comeau F 1 year $1M
Joel Kiviranta F 2 years $1.05M
Miro Heiskanen D 8 years $8.45M

Rookies who could crack lineup

Player Position Drafted
Thomas Harley D 18th overall (2019)

The Stars are largely running it back with the same lineup that missed the postseason last campaign, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Dallas' season was derailed by a massive COVID-19 outbreak early on. Add in the team's lengthy Stanley Cup Final run just months prior and a number of injuries to key players, and it's not all that surprising that the club didn't get the results it wanted in a shortened campaign.

With Ben Bishop's health for the upcoming season uncertain, the Stars went out and fetched Holtby, who'll be a reliable counterpart to Anton Khudobin. The club's other big move was bringing in Suter, who'll slot into the team's top four. With players like Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov expected to be back at full health, Dallas will have one of the NHL's deepest lineups.

Grade: B-

Minnesota Wild

Ethan Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Frederick Gaudreau F 2 years $1.2M
Alex Goligoski D 1 year $5M
Dmitry Kulikov D 2 years $2.25M
Jordie Benn D 1 year $900K
Jon Merrill D 1 year $850K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Zach Parise F Bought out
Nick Bonino F Signed with SJS
Marcus Johansson F Signed with SEA
Carson Soucy D Expansion draft
Ian Cole D Signed with CAR
Brad Hunt D Signed with VAN
Ryan Suter D Bought out

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Kevin Fiala F 1 year $5.1M
Kirill Kaprizov F 5 years $9M
Joel Eriksson Ek F 8 years $5.25M
Nick Bjugstad F 1 year $900K

Rookies who could crack lineup

Player Position Drafted
Marco Rossi F 9th overall (2020)
Matthew Boldy F 12th overall (2019)
Calen Addison D 53rd overall (2018)

The main focus of the Wild's offseason was to sign rookie phenom Kirill Kaprizov to a new deal. In the final moments before training camp opened, general manager Bill Guerin finally hammered one out.

Guerin had to cough up a significant amount of money to keep the 24-year-old in Minnesota, but it should be worth it. Kaprizov breathed life into Minnesota's lineup as he led the team to a playoff berth. He's the star the Wild have been desperately searching for, and getting a deal done with him was paramount.

Buying out Parise and Suter were slightly head-scratching moves despite their big price tags, since both veterans were still playing solid hockey. Minnesota is surely hoping youngsters Rossi and Boldy make the jump to the NHL at some point this season, and if they can, Minnesota should once again be a dark horse.

Grade: B

Nashville Predators

Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Cody Glass F 1 year $863K
Philippe Myers D 2 years $2.55M
David Rittich G 1 year $1.25M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Erik Haula F Signed with BOS
Viktor Arvidsson F Traded to LAK
Calle Jarnkrok F Expansion draft
Erik Gudbranson D Signed with CGY
Ryan Ellis D Traded to PHI
Pekka Rinne G Retired

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Eeli Tolvanen F 3 years $1.45M
Mikael Granlund F 4 years $5M
Dante Fabbro D 2 years $2.4M
Juuse Saros G 4 years $5M

Rookies who could crack lineup

Player Position Drafted
Philip Tomasino F 24th overall (2019)
Rem Pitlick F 76th overall (2016)
David Farrance D 92nd overall (2017)

The Predators' offseason was a mixed bag, with a number of key players leaving and not a whole lot coming in.

Things began with the team dealing Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings out of fear of losing him for nothing to Seattle in the expansion draft. The club then lost the underrated Jarnkrok to the Kraken and later dealt away Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers, getting back a solid top-four defenseman in Myers and a risky gamble in Glass.

Nashville seems to be in a bit of a tricky spot. Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene's massive contracts will make it hard for the club to undergo any sort of true rebuild. Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm are playing on expiring contracts this year. If there's no extension on the horizon for either player, GM David Poile would've been better off trading them this summer to maximize the return.

Grade: D+

St. Louis Blues

Justin Edmonds / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Pavel Buchnevich F 4 years $5.8M
Brandon Saad F 5 years $4.5M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Mike Hoffman F Signed with MTL
Sammy Blais F Traded to NYR
Jaden Schwartz F Signed with SEA
Carl Gunnarsson D Retired
Vince Dunn D Expansion draft

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Jordan Kyrou F 2 years $2.8M
Ivan Barbashev F 2 years $2.25M
Robert Thomas F 2 years $2.8M
Tyler Bozak F 1 year $750K
Zach Sanford F 1 year $2M
Colton Parayko D 8 years $6.5M

Rookies who could crack lineup

Player Position Drafted
Scott Perunovich D 45h overall (2018)

The Blues had a relatively quiet yet effective offseason overall.

Although the team lost both Hoffman and Schwartz - two top-six wingers who provided offensive firepower - replacing them with Saad and Buchnevich was some tidy work. St. Louis also dished out solid contracts to depth players like Barbashev and Sanford, and the club locked up the always reliable Parayko to a long-term deal at a reasonable price.

Rumors swirled around all summer long that Vladimir Tarasenko would be traded, but he's still around and looks like he'll be in the lineup, at least to start the season. This was a smart move by GM Doug Armstrong with Tarasenko's trade value at an all-time low, as there's a good chance he returns to his old goal-scoring ways now that he's fully healthy.

Grade: B+

Winnipeg Jets

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Riley Nash F 1 year $750K
Nate Schmidt D 4 years $5.95M
Brenden Dillon D 3 years $3.9M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Mathieu Perreault F Signed with MON
Nate Thompson F Signed with PHI
Trevor Lewis F Signed with CGY
Derek Forbort D Signed with BOS
Jordie Benn D Signed with MIN
Sami Niku D Bought out
Tucker Poolman D Signed with VAN
Laurent Brossoit G Signed with VGK

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Andrew Copp F 1 year $3.64M
Paul Stastny F 1 year $3.75M
Logan Stanley D 2 years $900K
Neal Pionk D 4 years $5.875M

Rookies who could crack lineup

Player Position Drafted
Cole Perfetti F 10th overall (2020)
Ville Heinola D 20th overall (2019)
Dylan Samberg D 43rd overall (2017)

The Jets addressed their one glaring issue this offseason: a porous defense.

With one of the league's best goaltenders in Connor Hellebuyck and an extremely talented forward group highlighted by Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, and Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg's blue line has been its ultimate downfall for years.

But with the additions of Dillon and Schmidt, the Jets will now be able to roll out three really solid pairings next season. The club now has enough defensive depth to withstand an injury or two, especially if a youngster like Heinola is ready to make the jump. Not losing one of Stanley or Dylan DeMelo to the Kraken in the expansion draft was huge. This could be the team's best lineup of the past few years.

Grade: B

Comments
NHL offseason grades: Central Division
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox